Thonotosassa Florida. I’ll almost bet you’ve never heard of it. It is a small agricultural community located a bit northwest of the Tampa vicinity.
We had researched RV parks the previous winter to find a good spot to park our rig. We were staying 6 months this time through and were in search of a nice, affordable RV park with good large sites, a nice view, and a good location close to Tampa and Zephyrhills. It took some time, but we found a great park, River Palm, that was located virtually in between the two cities. So great, in fact, we will be wintering there again this season.We shared the park with a variety of wildlife including many species of birds including 2 cranes, (I promptly named them Fred and Ethel) who enjoyed a daily morning stroll down the paved streets of the park. The turtles were much larger than most types we see in Michigan. And the frog in the sink, we think he may have hitched a ride from Titusville. We found him shortly after we arrived at River Palm.
My favorite creatures-in-residence were the herd of cows living in the pasture directly across from our rig. Something so Zen and peaceful about these animals. Except for the bull. He got loose a few times, and one day the Cowboys (yeah, real Cowboys) came in on their horses, rounded up the cows, then the bull, and took them away. Word on the street is the herd is not coming back, but I hope they do. If not, I guess the big bird gets the pasture to himself!
In addition to the good location between the cities, we also had Dead River County park right next door to the RV park. Connected to Dead River Park is Hillsborough State Park.
Both are great parks with plenty of hiking trails and biking areas. Hillsborough State Park has a sweet campground as well. Dead River Park became my running training ground and I often passed deer and occasionally some wild boars while running. The boars seemed very curious and stopped to stare at me. I would turn around and change my route to give the boar and her babies some space. I don’t need to tangle with a boar, although they are much more respectful and better behaved than some dogs I have encountered while running.
The Tampa Bay Area has a ton of things to do. The city of Tampa itself can be kind of a breath of fresh air from all the, ahem, senior and snowbird types. Lots of young professional types and a nice trendy vibe to go along with it. There is a newly finished Riverwalk with an area you can rent boats, or water cycles for the more adventurous types. In the center of the Riverwalk there is a nifty little open air pub run by the city of Tampa where you can stop for a cold one after a stroll in the sun. When our out of town visitors come to visit, a stop in Tampa is a must. Usually a couple times.
After arriving at River Palm funds were not quite plentiful due to our 6 week travels south. Not being the type to just languish in the RV park, and we can only hike so many days, I searched around and found a website called cheap and free things to do in the Tampa area.
We found a $5 tour of the Yingling Brewery Company, the oldest brewery in the U.S. (Although not the original location which is in Pottsville, PA) which included a free tasting at the conclusion. We learned a lot about beer making that day.
On Veteran’s Day the Florida State Park service was offering free admission to vets. Bruce fit the bill having served in the army, so we took off to explore Fort Desoto State Park. There are a couple nice beaches, great campground, lots of biking and water sports, and concessions with great ice cream, in addition to an actual miltary fort built for the Spanish-Anerican war which ended before the fort was completed. But it makes a smashing state park and is on our to do list when visitors arrive.
We made a few friends last year thanks to the fine folks at the Dade City VFW. This year when we popped back in they were planning a casino cruise outing and we opted in. Cruise day dawned a glorious sunny day starting with a bus ride back over to the other side of the state to Cape Canaveral where we sailed from. The food and entertainment were good, gambling fun, and it was nice to have an outing with our Dade City pals.
The holidays soon rolled around. We spent Thanksgiving with Dick and Carol Henderson, the parents of some friends of ours who are long-time winter Floridians. It was a much nicer Thanksgiving than the previous year in Anthony, NM. It was great to be around family, I have adopted them as my Florida parents.
No Christmas is complete without an ugly sweater contest. And there just happened to be one at the Dade City VFW Christmas party. And Brewster just happened to take 3rd place. Nice….
We spent the actual holiday at Clearwater Beach. Christmas on the beach is something I have always wanted to do. Scratch that one off the bucket list.
Our North Carolina kids needed a break from work and bad weather, so they drove down to spend a few days in the sun and celebrate the New Year. What a great way to wind up the holidays.
The fun doesn’t stop in Tampa just because the holidays are done. While taking a Segway tour of Tampa, the guide informed of us the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival on the last Saturday of January. The festival celebrates the exploits of a pirate named Jose Gaspar who may or may not have actually lived. Pirate festival? We’re in.
In February I took advantage of some quiet time to get my continuing education credits needed to renew my fitness/wellness certification, and do the legwork of recertifying. I opted for an Orthopedic Fitness Specialty course since myself, my friends, and my clients were getting older, and suffering from more and more mechanical issues, orthopedic fitness seemed like a good direction to go. 5 classes, six weeks, and I passed. I am now a certified orthopedic fitness specialist.February also called us home for a week for the funeral of my brother-in-law Ken. That particular week was the coldest week of the season in Michigan and we were greeted by snow, something we had not seen in some time. Although the occasion for being called home was a sad one, it was good to catch up with family and friends. RIP brother Ken, I am sure you are making some beautiful music in heaven.
Our friend Mariellen arrived in March and was ready for some fun. We enjoyed Tampa for a day, took a drive to Sarasota to meet up with some work associates of hers, and took a leisurely drive back up the coast, stopping to view a magnificent sunset at Bradenton Beach. We spent a day at the dog races and Fort DeSoto for more Florida fun in the sun. The weather was great for her visit, and we sent her home with a nice tan.
April was soon upon us. It just so happened the Detroit Tigers were playing the Miami Marlins. Bruce is a HUGE Tigers fan, but never saw an opening day. I never pass up an opportunity for a road trip to new territory, so I said, “Let’s go.”
We drove over to Miami down alligator alley through the Everglades National Park. Checked into our room, and took off for the stadium and a night game. I would say there were equal amounts of Tigers and Marlins fans at that game. Tigers win!
Since we were fairly close to the Keys, we decided to get as far south as we could and drive to Key West. It was another great Florida day and drive. And the sunset…it just might have been the best one I have seen since Hawaii.
The last day of our Miami mini trip was to Key Biscayne. I really wanted some Cuban jazzed up coffee, but never got any. I guess I’ll just have to go back.
After all my hard work training on the trails, I decided to sign up for the Tampa Airport Runway 5k fun run. The run was early, but the sun was out in full force that morning. It was hot, but I finished with a time of 37 minutes and some change. Right in the middle of the pack. The rest of April passed with us readying the rig for travel, and saying our goodbyes to our Florida pals. Til next year friends.
May 1 we quietly pulled out to begin our journey north.
Stay tuned for year 2 part 3….